Must-See Sights of Brazil - Christ The Redeemer
A recent survey came up with a list of the Seven New Wonders of the World. One of the 'new wonders' was the statue of Christ the Redeemer. This massive structure overlooks Rio de Janeiro in Brazil. In Portuguese, the statue is called 'Cristo Redentor'. It is considered the largest Art Deco statue in the world. It is also the fifth largest statue of Jesus ever made.
The statue is a massive 39.6 metres (130 ft) tall. This includes a 9.5 metre (31 ft) pedestal. It weighs a massive 635 tonnes and is 30 metres (98 ft) wide. The statue is made of reinforced concrete and soapstone.
Perched high above Rio de Janeiro at the peak of the 700 metre (2,300 ft) Corcovado Mountain, the statue with its outstretched arms has become an icon for the city and Brazil itself.
The original idea for a statue at the top of Corcovado was suggested by a Catholic priest Pedro Maria Boss. In the mid 1880s, he asked for finance from Princess Isabel to build a large religious monument. But in 1889, when Brazil became a republic with the subsequent separation of church and state, the idea was dismissed.
In 1921, the Catholic Circle of Rio put forward another proposal for a statue. 'Monument Week' (Semana do Monumento) was held. Donations and promises of support came mostly from Brazilian Catholics. Several designs were. In the end, Christ the Redeemer was chosen. The huge Christ figure with outstretched arms stands like a 'father protector' on top of the mountain.
As would be expected, a number of talented artists had a hand in the creation of such a huge masterpiece. A local engineer Heitor da Silva Costa designed the work which was sculpted by Frenchman Paul Landowski. After studying Landowski's submissions, it was decided to build the structure out of reinforced concrete instead of steel. It was believed this would be more suitable for the shape of the statue. Outer layers of soapstone would ensure that the statue would last. Soapstone was also malleable and easy to use. It took nine years to construct the statue. Work started in 1922 and finished in 1931. In today's money, it would have cost $3,068,097.
At the opening on 12 October 1931, a battery of floodlights was to have been triggered by shortwave radio pioneer Guglielmo Marconi. Marconi was in Rome, some 5,700 miles (9,200 km) from the statue. However on the day poor weather prevented the signal reaching the statue and it was lit by workers in Rio de Janeiro.
In 1980, restoration work was carried out before the visit of renowned architect, Germano Wallerstein. Further restoration work took place in 1990. In 2003, escalators, walkways and elevators were installed to enable easier access to the platform surrounding the statue.
There is now a chapel under the statue. This was consecrated in October 2006 on the 75th anniversary by Archbishop of Rio, Cardinal Eusebio Oscar Scheid. Catholics can now hold baptisms and weddings in the Nossa Senhora Aparecida or 'Our Lady of the Apparition'.
In Lisbon in 2007, Christ the Redeemer was named one of the New Seven Wonders of the World.
In 2008, a violent electrical storm hit the area and the statue was struck by lightning causing damage to the fingers, head and eyebrows. Some of the outer soapstone layers were replaced by the state government and archdiocese. At the same time, repairs were made to the lightning rods which had been installed on the statue. In 2009, the monument was declared a 'protected monument' by the National Heritage Institute.
In 2010, on 15 April, paint was sprayed on the head and right arm. A reward of R$10,000 was offered for information leading to an arrest. A house painter, Paulo Souza dos Santos was later identified as the likely culprit.
A four-month project in 2010 was carried out by mining company Vale and the Archdiocese. This focussed on the statue itself and included renovating the internal structure. A crust of fungi and other micro-organisms was removed from the soapstone mosaic covering. Small cracks and lightning rods were repaired. New lighting installed at the base produced a dynamic lighting effect. A hundred people were involved in the 2010 restoration and an additional 60,000+ pieces of stone were used, all from the same quarry as the original stone. During the unveiling of the renovation, the statue was illuminated with green and yellow lighting in honour of the Brazil national football team which was playing in the 2010 FIFA World Cup.
Because of the strong winds and rain to which the statue is subjected, maintenance work is ongoing and periodic. Access to the statue is by the 2.4 metre Corcovado Railway. This leaves the base every half hour with the trip taking about 20 minutes. The train moves 360 passengers every hour. There are 222 steps from the road or the train terminal. Escalators and elevators ease the walk for those not wishing to make the arduous trek up the mountain. The view late afternoon or early evening is something that should not be missed if you are within range of the area.